Update: SF Underground Market is no longer active.
SF Underground Market isn’t exactly a restaurant. Actually, it isn’t anything close. But it’s a foodie event like no other and broccoli & chocolate just attended last Saturday for the first time.
Event Summary: “A venue where you can taste and purchase the food that is being produced in backyards and home kitchens in the Bay Area. Think a farmers market, but at night, with music and drinks.”
Sounds fun, right? It was. But it wasn’t everything I was hoping for. Here’s why:
- It was super crowded. Half hour wait to get in (at 7.30 p.m.), shoulder to shoulder once inside (in the evening). Like a concert where you have to shove past all your fellow event-goers to get a decent dinner.
- It’s expensive. The $5 cover didn’t phase me, but the $6 grilled cheese sandwich did. K and I spent a cool $43 on admission, a plate of rice and beans, a grilled cheese sandwich and fried pickles, a bowl of vegan daal, water, a tiny cup of soda, one beer and four miniature brownies (= 1 normal sized brownie). For $21/person, I was still hungry when I got home.
- It’s too cool for school. While the concept is rad: homegrown fare for sale without pesky government oversight, it’s a total hipster haven. So many folks there were so cool I could almost puke. Or maybe I’m just grumpy that I don’t fit in. Who knows.
- What the hell was up with the music? While there were some cute little buskers about with guitars, accordions and keyboards, at about 10pm a girl took the main stage with her cello in hand. Imagine an echo-y cello blaring on a single note for 10 seconds at a time before switching to another dull, droning note. And then repeat for an hour. What happened to the rest of the band? If this doesn’t encourage drug use, I’m not sure what does.
Complaints aside, I didn’t have a bad time. It was fun to go with some friends — there was a decent variety of food stands selling everything from vegan lemon cakes (above) to pulled pork sandwiches and most of the food wasn’t what you’d call mainstream. Oh yeah, we’re all so alternative. Totally.
The food we had was tasty and, had it been less crowded, I would have been happy to partake in more. There were pizzas (half hour waiting list to receive your order) that looked fab, I totally saw a girl with a tray of mac ‘n cheese (that stand packed up and left around 8pm), and if I could have gotten a waffle without the chicken, I would have been down.
It seemed like a “sell food until you run out” type of vendor listing, and about half of the stalls were closed or closing by 9 or 10 p.m. Which was unfortunate because the event was slated to continue until 2 a.m. I hope you aren’t hungry if you’re coming late.
Also, I’ve noticed some food trends lately: in “super chic” food culture bacon seems to be very “in”. As in, putting bacon on weird things is super cool. At this event there were bacon wrapped mochi and bacon infused biscuits (among other biscuit flavors). At a Yelp Event I attended a couple months ago, there were bacon flavored cupcakes. Good times.
All around, I would totally go back, but I would show up earlier in the day for the “take-homeables and gifts” (11 a.m. – 4 p.m.) part of the fair, or get there right at 6 p.m. to skip the crowds coming by for dinner.
Totally agree with your assessment to arrive earlier in the evening. Next time we know… And perhaps next time the event won’t be held in the Mission, aka hipster-central of SF.
Do they move the location around? That may be cool…. they totally could have used a bigger venue in my opinion. Next time, we’ll get it done right!
Thanks for the review. I’d been considering making the trek to SF to attend one of these, and it sounds like it’s not worth the trouble. I’ll stick with the farmer’s market.
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re just into the food, farmer’s market may be better. Though I didn’t go to the daytime part of this event which is supposed to be more “take home” focused, so I can’t speak to that. Other than that, it’s really just a chance for a night out in the city and can definitely be fun if that’s what you’re looking for.
Agree with your summation of the event. The Oakland based markety was way more easy to navigate, but was still rather pricey. I do enjoy supporting local chefs, though, and anyone who has an idea whey want to put out into the world.
And those fried pickles? Yum. Minus the thirty minute wait to get them.